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Making World-class Smart Cities In Gujarat

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld chairman and editor-in-chief Annurag Batra and Manish Arora, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani talks about his vision of cities in Gujarat being among the best cities in the world and its government’s initiatives to make it happen

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To make Gujarat a world-class state, its government is pushing ahead its agenda of making the state a land of opportunities and of inclusive development taking everyone along in its quest. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld chairman and editor-in-chief Annurag Batra and Manish Arora, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani talks about his vision of cities in Gujarat being among the best cities in the world and its government’s initiatives to make it happen. 

Edited excerpts:

What are your plans for Gujarat for the next five years?
I am glad I shall get a full five-year term to go ahead with the development agenda, where we have made a vision document for these five years. Our first priority is to complete the projects started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat’s chief minister. We are focusing on his vision of doubling farmers’ incomes, maximising their agriculture produce and new programmes for insurance and irrigation, etc.

Secondly, we are making sure that farmers get the minimum support price for their produce. We are also concentrating on the whole chain of marketing to cold storage. As Gujarat is a state with a 1,600-km-long coastline, we are concentrating on making the seaway the main mode of transportation. We have also started a RO-RO ferry service. We are focused on more port development from cargo to mass transportation to make sure that there is less burden on roads.

Thirdly, the youth must get employment opportunities. We want to facilitate Gujarat as a land of opportunities. We are working in this direction by ensuring industrial development and foreign direct investments in Gujarat that will ultimately lead to employment generation.

In this years’ budget too we are planning to give an unemployment allowance to the jobless, and skill training to the youth. So, we are taking forward Modi’s motto of ‘Bachho ko Padhai, Yuva ko Kamai, Buzurgon ko dawai’ (education to children, employment to youth and medicine to elderly people).

Health is also a major focus area for our government. We have given health security to senior citizens to cover serious ailments such as heart attack and cancer, etc. We will provide Rs 3 lakh assistance to senior citizens for undergoing operations for these ailments. Primary facilities such as water, law and order, administration, sewerage, electricity and education, etc., are also our focus. Gujarat is the only state to make a law to regulate the fee charged by private schools even after being challenged by schools and even the Supreme Court. But in the end, we won. Our objective is to implement this law with utmost seriousness and help middle-class and poor children get good education.

What is the kind of outlay that has been sanctioned for urban development and Smart Cities Mission in the budget presented in the Gujarat assembly and what are your plans regarding this for the next five years?
In the budget of 2018-19, the Gujarat government has kept aside Rs 12,500 crore for urban development to make the state truly world class and will need Rs 3,000 crore for the Smart Cities Mission. Gujarat has six smart cities. Our aim is to make them on par with the best in the world. In order to achieve this objective, the whole system needs to be made smart by leveraging technology, and we are working in that direction with utmost sincerity.

Your views on the central government’s ambitious GIFT City project.
For Modi’s ambitious project of GIFT City, YES bank recently has raised $600 million through its first US dollar denominated bond offering and listed the bonds on London Stock Exchange’s International Securities Market (ISM). These proceeds will be used to fund the bank’s IFSC Banking Unit (IBU) in GIFT City. GIFT is a dream envisaged by Modi to make a futuristic city, with a concentration of international financial services, which can compete with other financial cities such as London, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. We want to make Gujarat a hub for all this by making this township truly international where banks, insurance firms and stock exchanges can operate easily and are well connected with the whole world. We aspire to offer Indian as well as global firms a world-class infrastructure and facilities here at GIFT City. Our focus is on generating earnings and employment opportunities for people to make them self-sufficient.

Your comments on the central government’s achievements so far.
The very first achievement of the central government is that there is not even a single blot of corruption on the government under Modi’s tenure. So many corruption scandals had broken out during the 10-year tenure of the Manmohan Singh government. All of that stopped when Modi came to power. We all have seen an honest government in these five years committed to working for the common man of the country.

Second is the economic reforms carried out by Modi government. There were so many talks since so many years about one nation, one tax i.e. the Goods and Services Tax (GST), but only Modi’s government made it a reality. This tax will strengthen, improve and boost India’s ranking in ease of doing business. GST is also important for attracting foreign investment and increasing tax compliance.

Third, the reason the people of our country have reverence and faith in this government, is only because Modi has been vocal about raising the issue of black money and taking steps in this direction. No PM or governments in the past could muster that kind of courage to speak against it. Only a person like Modi, who does not have black money,  can talk about it. This is a testimony that he is honest in his resolve against the menace of black money and continues his fight to bring the offenders to justice.

Fourth, this government has boosted the morale of our army from time to time. Decisions such as surgical strike on Pakistan was taken to keep up the morale of our soldiers and give them the confidence that their sacrifices would not go waste, and that we would retaliate with a shower of bullets if any kind of assault is made on our soldiers. The Swabhiman (Pride) of India and our army alike has been up because of Modi.

Thus, this is the government of the poor and the exploited, and for the less fortunate ones living in villages. This government has come out with a lot of schemes and programmes for the farmers and poor of this country. All these accomplishments of the Modi government are in public domain and for all to see in the next general elections. We are hopeful that the citizens of this country are with us.

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smart cities Vijay Rupani Magazine 17 March 2018 gujarat

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